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Inmate Limit Proposed

Apr 25, 2014

Lawmakers could set limit on number of inmates in Michigan prisons

One Michigan legislator wants to put a limit on the number of inmates in state-run prisons.

Credit flickr.com

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, says legislation he introduced this week could save the state tens of millions of dollars. It would require the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to keep the number of inmates in its prisons under 38,000. Right now, that number is about 44,000.

Proos says it would be up to the MDOC to decide how to keep the prison population under the cap. He says many prisoners could be sent to county jails or private facilities. He says it would also discourage the parole board from keeping people in prison after they're eligible for parole.

"I think the county jails have already proven that they do it for a third to half the cost - on a per-day rate - that the state of Michigan operates its prisons," said Proos. "That's a significant savings to our hard-working taxpayers."

"Every dollar saved gives us a chance to invest in schools," he said, "gives us a chance to invest those hardworking taxpayer dollars in areas that we all know will help, in the long run, to keep people out of prison."

Proos says the savings would allow the MDOC to focus on rehabilitating prisoners, instead of just "warehousing" them.

Terry Jungel with the Michigan Sheriffs' Association says county jails do not have enough space to handle that many prisoners.

And the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS), a prison watchdog group, says it also has a number of concerns with the bill. Executive Director Laura Sager says county jails are not equipped to house long-term inmates or provide rehabilitative services.

Both Jungel and Sager say they think the intent of the bill is good, and hope to work with Sen. Proos to improve it.